Filling Life’s Jar of Priorities


Life lessons can be learned anywhere at any time, including a convention years ago where I picked up a lesson I still remember. The motivational speaker at this convention used an analogy to explain the importance of prioritizing life’s to-do list. The explanation was helpful, and I’ve used it as a guide in my life, especially when feeling overwhelmed with my to-do list. I hope it’s useful to you, too.

The analogy involves a glass jar and a bunch of rocks, and it goes like this. Think of the jar as your life, and the rocks are items on your to-do list. As you knock off each item on the list, a rock is placed inside the jar. The rocks come in two sizes: the larger being the size of a golf ball, and the others being tiny pebbles. The sizes represent the magnitude of the items on the to-do list ­— the larger the rock the more important the task.

Spending one’s life tackling the tiny pebble-sized tasks will result in a jar full of completed tasks, but there won’t be any room for the larger rocks. However, if the larger rocks are placed in the jar first, there will be room for the tiny pebbles to filter down and fill the spaces between the big rocks, resulting in a jar — and a life — filled with a balance of both large and small accomplishments.

This life lesson is one I’ve been reminded of occasionally over the years, including recently. Never before has it been clearer to me exactly which tasks must be accomplished first, either in my personal life or in the office. It’s easy these days for me to determine what the most pressing issue is, and more importantly to tackle it immediately. For some people like me, one benefit of stress is a clearer vision when it comes to establishing priorities.

For most of us, the priorities are generating new business and maintaining current revenue streams. The tasks, then, would be reviewing the marketing plan and adjusting it as necessary, or making daily phone calls or site visits to current and past clients to ensure their needs are being met with satisfactory customer service. Maybe the task is to arrange a brainstorming meeting with company leaders to discuss the direction of the business, and again, make adjustments if needed.

On a day-to-day level, do you know what your priorities are? Are you focusing your efforts on tasks that matter? Are you working efficiently; spending time wisely?

Look at your to-do list, or think of what must be done today. What’s the one task you’ll feel happiest about when it’s done? Drop everything and start working on it right now.

Do you even have a to-do list? If not, create one. Start writing down every task that needs doing, and enjoy scratching them off as you get them done.

Are you filling your life’s jar with nothing but pebbles, or are you filling it with the larger stones, too?

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